Museum of Cycladic Art

Museum of Cycladic Art (37)

Perhaps when you find yourself at the gates of the Museum of Cycladic Art, you will have the opportunity to take your time to explore these fascinating archaeological remains. But this museum offers a very different collection to most places of interest of the city, and will take you back to a more distant time; specifically, the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. 

The Cycladic Civilisation emerged almost two thousand years before the Greek Civilisation on the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea. They include Mykonos, Paros, Milos, Santorini and Serifos. The name of the archipelago derives from Kyklos, circle in Greek, due to their circular arrangement around Delos, the sacred island where legend has it that Apollo was born. The Cycladic Civilisation, which evolved between 3000 and 2000 BC on these islands, was wealthy and significant, although with the subsequent evolution of Ancient Greece it passed to a second term. 

The museum has the best collection of Cycladic art in the world, it would soon be said. It was collected by Nikolas and Dolly Goulandris and, over the years, has been expanded with pieces donated by other private collectors. Since 1986, the four floors of the museum have displayed delicate figurines, jewellery, bronzes of a truly exceptional value to the world. 

The most important body of the collection is on the first floor of the modern main building. The splendour of this civilisation manifested artistically in marble figurines. Simple and exquisite, these figures are, in most cases, of minute dimensions, some of them up to two centimetres. These little gems can be divided into abstract forms, such as those from Paros and Antiparos, which have a stylised violin shape, and those of human forms. Although these figures did not transcend history as Greek sculpture later did, it is true that they are a really incredible form of modern art, and seem to express the very essence of the human form. 

If you leave behind the wonders of the first floor, on the second there are samples of ancient Greek art, with more than 300 objects such as cups decorated with scenes from everyday life, funerary objects, bronze jars and terracotta figures. In the third, Greece gives way to ancient Cypriot art.

Finally, the fourth floor houses the private collection of Karolos Politis, consisting of lamps, jewellery, vases and war helmets. One of the most valuable pieces is the white Lekythos, a funeral clay pot that was used to store embalming oil and, dating back to the 5th century BC, is an example of painting on a white background that is quite difficult to find. 

On the ground floor, apart from the well-stocked museum shop, there are signs leading to the Stathatos Mansion. This wing of the museum has been in operation since 1992. It is a fantastic Neoclassical mansion designed by Ernst Ziller in 1895, and houses the temporary exhibitions and the collection of Greek art at the Academy of Athens. 

Do not miss the opportunity to visit this museum, especially the floor dedicated to Cycladic art. Its figures will surprise you, as they inspired many 20th century artists like Picasso, Modigliani and Henry Moore. 

And if you fancy, in the Stathatos mansion conservatory you can enjoy a coffee in a unique environment. 

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